A Week In Vancouver: Hotel, Food & Sights
It has barely been 14 days that I have been back in Vienna after our vacation, but for some reason it feels like our perfect week in Vancouver was ages ago. In other words: it is about time that I tell you more about it! Vancouver has had a special place in my heart for at least 10 years now. It is not only one of the cities rated with the highest quality of life in the world, but Mike also has some of his dearest and nearest relatives there, which means we have been traveling to Vancouver on a regular basis throughout our entire relationship. Back in the days, we always lived with his family during our visits, but in recent years we started to stay in hotels in Downtown Vancouver to get to experience the city a bit more. I love that I am now starting to have favorite restaurants and coffee places, as well as know my way around town by foot in most Downtown, Coal Harbor and Gastown areas. To me, Vancouver sparks a familiarity of coming home paired with the excitement and leisure of a vacation vibe.
Our visit last year was way too short with only 3 days to spend in Canada, hence we decided to plan an entire week (almost) in Vancouver and had the best time. We tried so many new foodie spots, spent a day in Whistler snow-mobiling in the backcountry and feel in love with the Shangri-La hotel in Downtown.
A Week in Vancouver: Sleep, Eat, See
Hotel: I feel like pretty soon, I will be Vancouver’s No. 1 Hotel critique with this being my third Vancouver hotel review and counting… We always like to try a new hotel when we visit the city and this time we decided on the Shangri-La Vancouver. Such a good choice! I have always been a fan of the Shangri-La Hotels and feel like the brand simply stands for an unquestioned 5-star standard – no matter where in the world. Even with having very high expectations, we were not disappointed one bit by the sophisticated urban sanctuary the Shangri-La in Vancouver offered!What did I like about the hotel? Everything! But the three things that stuck out the most to me personally were the beds (heavenly and not a sign of jetlag!!), the incredibly spacious and well-equipped gym plus the location of the hotel. In recent years, we always stayed down by the water, which makes for a great view. However, I have to admit that the location a few blocks back, on the corner of Thurlow and West Georgia Street, was much more convenient on a daily basis. Everything was reachable by foot. Not to mention that there was a healthy grocery story literally next door and Robson St (= shopping) right around the corner. The Shangri-La’s gym was next level for a hotel. Easily the biggest I have ever seen. First, I planned on taking all kinds of boxing, spinning and pilates classes in Vancouver but ended up just going to the hotel’s gym for all of my workouts. The variety of equipment is beyond, there were so many cardio machines, a separate weights area and a room for yoga/stretches.Also worth mentioning was the breakfast, which was not buffet style and a much welcomed change from most other hotel breakfasts. Due to Mike’s Golden Circle status we had the luxury of having the breakfast included and only ventured out for an avo toast and poached egg once. My go-to was “The Healthy” with fresh fruit, berries a porridge and fresh coffee while Mike was more experimental and tried everything from a Chinese-inspired typical Shangri-La breakfast to the brioche French toast, eggs bennie and pancakes.Unfortunately it was a bit too cold to make use of the hotel’s outdoor pool, but I can only imagine how amazing it must be for a morning swim during the warmer months of the year!As far as the room itself goes, I cannot think of a single thing we were not entirely smitten with. Floor-to-ceiling windows, a shower + tup (with a view!!), spacious closet, luxurious materials such as marble in the bathroom and real wood for the walls, a seating area, desk and fully stocked mini bar. Lastly, I also want to mention the staff (concierge in particular) who were all such a great mix of easy going and approachable, yet highly professional. We loved the suggestions for Whistler they provided us with, their help for booking tables and the snow-mobile tour.
What about the hair dryer? It was good! Not the best, not the worst. Not attached to the wall (a big plus) and was able to dry my hair in under 30 minutes. Even though I missed my Dyson from home, I would rate it as one of the better hotel dryers I have come across!
Food: Even though we were so tempted to visit a few old favorites, we tried our best to expand our culinary horizon in Vancouver and stopped by some places we had never been to before. For a healthy bowl or sandwich, homemade iced tea and kumbucha, The Birds & The Beets in Gastown is definitely worth a visit. It has a bit of that hipster feeling and seems like a place where you can sit and work on your laptop for hours. For coffee to-go and a bomb-dot-com avocado toast (or sourdough donuts, which Mike loved) we stopped by 49th Parallel & Lucky Donuts almost daily. The fact that it was located right across from the Shangri-La was a bit too convenient! Speaking of coffee: Di Beppe Caffé in Gastown is a must. Not only do they serve my personal favorite coffee in town (dark, strong, no acid, bitter, chocolatey, nutty, etc) for a very reasonable price (in Italy, coffee is never expensive) but it is also a bar and a deli of sorts as well as a restaurant, pastry shop and even a retail/grocery store. A true Italien caffé! My personal foodie highlight was our last dinner in the city, which we had at Kissa Tanto, a restaurant that offers Italian-Japanese cuisine. I know, right?? But so so good! Not only was the food (and drinks) amazing, but I also loved the vibes of the chic space inspired by 1960s Tokyo jazz cafes in the heart of Chinatown.For casual eats or weekend brunch with mimosas, we went to Cactus Club or Earl’s. Both are chains and usually pretty loud and buzzing but the food is always great and it doesn’t really matter if you are there to watch a sports game or to celebrate a birthday. Easy, laid-back and good food.If your are in the mood for a date night, I can highly recommend Market by Jean-Georges in the Shangri-La hotel. Not only do they serve my all-time favorite broccolini with parmesan and chilli there (also available for room service!!), but they also make amazing cocktails, have an incredible wine list, the kale salad as a starter was to-die for, as was the local fish and warm chocolate cake with tonka bean ice cream for dessert.
Things to do: Even though many of my favorite Things To Do in Vancouver can be found in my Vancouver Travel Guide from last year, we did try a few new things, including a day trip up to Whistler in the snow. I had been to Whistler on a previous trip, but it was May and a totally different experience. This time around, we booked a 4-hour guided snow-mobile tour in the backcountry and it was epic! So were my sore arms for 5 days to follow…
Aside from the day in Whistler, we also wandered around Gastown and found a few new stores that I didn’t know, such as Neighbour with brands like Acne Studios and a Le Labo boutique (wish they had one in Vienna). A visit to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without an afternoon walk at Ambleside Park with a beautiful view of the Lions Gate Bridge and a nighttime view of the skyline from Pier 7 in North Vancouver.